The Total Creepshow Experience Just Got Totaller (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Creepshow has always been released barebones in the USA. But in the UK, it had a sweet 2-disc DVD special edition. When it was time for blu-ray, Creepshow stayed barebones in the US, but the UK blu got even more extras! But finally, the director of the Creepshow documentary Just Desserts from the UK releases, Redshirt's Michael Felshner, put together an indiegogo campaign to release just his doc in the USA, even if it had to be by itself, as opposed to paired with Warner Bros' Creepshow discs. Well, that happened, and Synapse picked it up, including a bunch more special features. Just what's carried over from one special edition to another - and what isn't - can be a little confusing, so let's break it all down.

Update 10/14/18: And suddenly there's a lot more to the Creepshow story!  Scream Factory has restored the film in 4k from the original camera negative, and they've issued it in a fancy new special edition, with even more all new special features.  Has it rendered every other release obsolete?
First of all, Creepshow is a blast. It's one of those movies I loved as a kid and still get just as much out of today. You know, usually movies fall on one side of that line or the other, but this is one of those treats that fills both spaces. It's an anthology film directed by George Romero, written by (and co-starring) Stephen King, based on the old E.C. horror comics of the 1950s. That's already some top of the line talent, bolstered by the fact that they have a respectable (for a horror movie) budget and a big studio behind them. But then add to that the effects-work of Tom Savini and a terrific all-star cast, all delightfully shot and dramatically framed over-the-top, capturing the style of the original comic books perhaps better than any other, with the possible exceptions of much later entries like Sin City or Ang Lee's The Hulk. But unlike The Hulk, this doesn't suck, so it's really the best of both worlds.  ;)
Every story is great. You have a wrap-around segment where a young boy is forbidden to read his trashy comic books by his father, Tom Atkins. But he reads anyway, and each story is is one of our anthology's segments, starting with Father's Day, starring Ed Harris. He marries into a wealthy family who owe all their spoils to their deceased patriarch, but their lack of respect has him not just rolling in his grave, but crawling up out of it. Next, King himself stars as an over-the-top hillbilly hick who thinks his luck has turned when a meteorite lands in his backyard, but we all know things can't go as well as he hopes. Next, Leslie Neilsen exacts some morbidly fatal revenge on his wife and the man she cheats on him with (Ted Danson), but it winds up backfiring on him. And speaking of murderous solutions to marital problems, Hal Holbrook thinks he may have figured out a way to finally rid himself of his delightfully shrewish wife, Adrienne Barbeau, when he finds a mysterious crate in the basement of his university. And finally E.G. Marshall is a rich man who takes germophobia to new extremes in his futuristically designed penthouse apartment, but unfortunately for him, nature always finds a way.
Creepshow was originally released on DVD in 1999. I unfortunately sold it off long ago, so I don't have it for today's comparison, but it at least an anamorphic widescreen presentation. I got rid of it, though, because in 2007 Second Sight put out their loaded 2007 special edition 2-disc DVD set, which I do still have and am including here. Back in the USA, Warner Bros gave this film its HD debut with their 2009 blu-ray, but it was barebones.  Eventually in 2013, Second Sight gave us the best of both worlds: special edition blu-ray. At the time, it was the champ.  But now in 2018, Scream Factory (and Warner Bros) has raised the stakes, with an all new 4k restoration from the original camera negative.
2007 Second Sight DVD on first; 2009 Warner Bros blu second;
2013 Second Sight blu third; 2018 Scream Factory blu fourth.
So, by and large, it's the same root transfer on the DVD bumped up to HD on the original blus. It's got the same occasional flecks and dirt (look at the white speck at the top left of all three Halbrook shots), roughly the same colors etc. I say roughly, because the DVD's a teensy bit darker, but only so's you'd notice in a direct comparison like this. One more notable difference, however, is the framing. Second Sight matted it to 1.85:1 on the DVD, but Warner Bros left it open to 1.78:1 on the blu-ray, and so did they. Apart from that, though, they're pretty similar. What was a great looking DVD becomes an okay looking blu. It is a bit cleaner and more clear without the DVD compression, but it's still soft and generally feels like the older master that it is. A mild upgrade from the already pretty strong DVD.

But now the new blu!  First, to start off, the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio is back.  And that white speck in the Halbrook shot is gone, along with plenty of others like it (though I did still catch a few specks).  The film's a bit darker, with more naturalistic colors, except in key shots where the impressionistic, comic book-influenced coloring comes in, and it actually goes a bit further in that direction.  Detail is improved and grain is definitely more distinct and natural by a wide margin.  The older blus didn't have any problems per se, crying out for correction; they're just older.  And Scream's edition brings Creepshow to the higher standards of quality on par with today's tech.

The DVD gave us a choice between a 5.1 remix or the original Dolby 2.0 stereo track, plus English subtitles. The Second Sight blu gives us the same audio options, but bumps them up to DTS-HD and LPCM respectively. However, unfortunately, this time around they neglected the subs.  On the other hand, Warner Bros remembered the subtitles (and French ones as well), but left off the 5.1 option, leaving us with just the TrueHD stereo 2.0.  So between the two older blus, it's a bit of a trade-off, which is a pity, because Second Sight had set itself up to be the otherwise superior release, and they already had a subtitle track on their DVD.  And Scream?  Well, it claims "DTS-HD Master Audio Mono" on the back of the case, but that's incorrect.  Instead they offer us the choice of a 5.1 Surround mix or the 2.0 Stereo track, both in DTS-HD.  And yes, it has English subtitles.
And by definitive, I mean look at these special features!  Now, like I said, the US Warner Bros release is barebones except for the trailer and a lame ad for Warner Bros releases in general.  So just forget about that and let's start with the DVD, which provides all the key staples. First, there's a very cool audio commentary by Romero and Savini, who provide a lot of great backstory to this film. But topping that is the feature length documentary Just Desserts, making its debut here. This is a great, very upbeat retrospective which talks to all the key players. It's very well made, in Red Shirt's usual, top notch fashion. And besides those two key features, there's also fifteen minutes of deleted scenes, a featurette compiling almost half an hour of Tom Savini's behind-the-scenes footage, the trailer and a stills gallery. The DVD also came in a cool slip-sleeve box.

Again, the US blu-ray didn't pick up any of that and remained barebones. Well, except for the trailer. But Second Sight's blu-ray carried over everything from their excellent DVD set, right down to the stills gallery, even bumping Just Desserts up to HD. Then, they added an all new audio commentary. This one, isn't really a proper audio commentary, though. It's more a collection of audio interviews that are laid over the film, but not commenting directly on it. They talk to director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas (the father in Father's Day), property master Bruce Alan Miller, make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci and Bernie Wrightson, the artist who did the poster and the awesome oversized Creepshow comic book that my best friend and I used to borrow from the library like every other week for years.  Plus, they added an additional vintage TV spot.

And then we come to Synapse's brand new blu-ray release of just Just Desserts.
2007 Second Sight DVD on top; 2013 Second Sight blu-ray middle; Synapse's 2016 blu-ray bottom.
So, not much has changed apart from what you'd expect. The DVD looks a little more compressed, naturally, being in standard def. All three are framed at 1.78:1, but the 2013 blu-ray looks a little bit lighter than the other two, and the DVD is a little heavier saturated. I think I like Synapse's middle-of-the-road look the best. But oh no, wait - there is a big difference here: the whole lower third label is missing from the DVD shot! Well, watching the doc through, that label is on the DVD version, too; it just fades out a little earlier. So I guess they did a little tinkering with the edit for the blu-ray reissue? I didn't notice any substantial changes between the two versions, though, but there might be more subtle alterations and flourishes for the particularly curious to discover.
So, you might think getting Just Desserts is great for the Region A locked who've been stuck with entirely featureless Creepshow releases, and it is. But Synapse has packed their release with additional features which might just tempt owners of the Second Sight special editions. First, though, let me cover the other stuff they included from the Second Sight blu, because they did do some of that. You remember that collection of Savini's behind-the-scenes footage I mentioned before? That's been ported over to here, as has the not-quite-an-audio commentary with Gornick, Amplas, Miller, Ferrucci and Wrightson, which now plays as a commentary over the documentary (again, they're not commenting on anything in particular, so it's the same difference). They also carried over the stills gallery.
Scream Greats: Volume One
But Syanpse's blu also has a bunch of new stuff. There's an audio commentary (for the documentary, not Creepshow) by Felsher, an on-camera interview with Michael Gornick (which is actually the same interview heard on that second audio commentary, except slightly re-edited and now we get to see him), extended interview clips from the doc with Romero, Savini and Wrightson (the last of which, like the Gornick interview, is the same as on the audio commentary). There's also a Creepshow episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds (these are always a blast), and a vintage segment of the Pittsburgh public access show Evening Magazine that interviews Romero and shows some behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of the movie. Finally, but perhaps most excitingly, is Fangoria's old Scream Greats: Volume One documentary that they released on VHS way back in the day, interviewing Tom Savini in his studio. It's presented here, along with its own audio commentary track by Savini. I imagine some fans will find this release worth the purchase price for this alone.

Also, if you supported the indiegogo campaign, you got an exclusive booklet and poster.  Good on ya.
The original cell animations.
And what about Scream Factory's new blu?  They have an interesting mix of new features and older stuff they carried over.  So let's start with the old.  The two commentaries, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries and half hour of Savini footage from the UK blu-ray are here.  In other words, everything except the Just Desserts doc.  And the Horror's Hallowed Grounds from the Synapse Just Desserts disc is here.

So the new stuff?  It's mostly also by Red Shirt Pictures, and basically feels like a collection of every other little thing they missed with their Synapse disc.  There are great new interviews with the costume designer Barbara Anderson and animator Rick Catizone.  There's a round-table discussion with Felshner, Amplas, Atkins, Savini and Marty Schiff which manages to cough up a few anecdotes which I don't think were in the previous extras.  And there's a couple interviews where it really begins to feel like they're stretching it, including one with a guy who collects Creepshow props, and another with two guys who commission new posters for older films, including Creepshow, though none of them compared to the classic original posters.  There's also two new audio commentaries.  One by Michael Gornick, which was good but repeated stuff from some of his other interviews, and another with composer/ assistant director John Harrison and construction coordinator Ed Fountain, which was fairly low energy and frankly boring.  More interesting for me, though possibly not for more casual viewers just interested in the film rather than the technical stuff, were new interviews with Gornick and sound designer Chris Jenkins, who talked about the finer points of the new 4k restoration.  However, fair warning: purists may wince at some of the changes Gornick made that border on the revisionist.

Scream Factory's disc comes in a thick hardbox, with reversible artwork for the inner case, and a glossy, 40 page book by Michael Gingold.  Also, if you pre-ordered early enough, you got a limited edition poster and lithograph.
So, together, Scream's disc and Synapse's Just Desserts disc nets you everything.  If you have those, there's nothing left exclusive on the Second Sight blu, or any of the other past releases.  If you don't have Just Desserts, though, Scream's disc feels a little bit off in terms of extras.  Like you've got a lot of odds and ends, but they never talk to the major cast members or anything.  I feel like Felshner specifically designed this set of extras to work as a companion piece, in conjunction with the Synapse blu, rather than something meant to stand alone.  And that's fine if you're happy to get both, but could be a little annoying to fans who think just shelling out the hefty price for Scream's Collector's Edition should be pretty definitive on its own, and feel stuck watching a couple of hipsters showing off their drawings instead of Adrienne Barbeau and Ed Harris.  In the end it's certainly worth it, though, with a smashing new transfer of the film and - again, if you get both releases - an incredibly comprehensive and enjoyable set of features documenting what's still one of the most fun horror movies going.

8 comments:

  1. I love my Second Sight Blu-ray, but I might have to pick up the Synapse blu-ray as well. Thank you for the info. Also, keep up the good work.

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  2. Thankyou so much for highlighting which features had been included on the different Just Deserts releases. That was really helpful!

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  3. By any chance, does the Scream Factory CE feature the original Saul Bass Warner Bros. logo? The other edition feature the Warner logo from the mid-80s-mid-90s.

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    1. Yes, just checked - the Scream Factory blu has the original Saul Bass logo on it.

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  4. I noticed some "recoloring" on SF's disc in screen grab comparisons I've seen online. IMO the Second Sight Blu-ray presents a more authentic view of the film with the genuine color scheme, rather than one rethought 3 decades later ...

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    1. Yeah, Gornick talks in some of the new extras about how he used this new 4k transfer to make some changes (particularly adding color to some transitions) that he couldn't do at the original time of filming. That's what I meant by "some of the changes Gornick made that border on the revisionist."

      Still, overall, I think the improvement in PQ is worth it on the balance. Especially since I don't think the tweaks look bad or anything. They're just inauthentic, like when Coscarelli painted out the yellow bucket in the 4k restoration of Phantasm. I'd prefer it the way it was originally; but I don't think it's too hard to live with. I think changing the sphere effects there were more egregious than anything here.

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    2. I saw these screen image comparisons from "Something To Tide You Over" where the ghouls lovers are green as opposed to blue, and the comic book swirl behind them is brown as opposed to orange. Now I can't get it outta my head. So I'm sticking with my SS R2 release. I'm not really a "special features" kinda guy, but "Just Desserts" is one of the rare exceptions to that rule. So its just a nice neat package for a guy like me. .... BTW yellow bucket Phantasm?! Huh?! Whaaaa?!?! Should I investigate or just leave well enough alone. ;) ps - your release comparisons are very cool. I must have visited your Coffin Joe page for view-planning at least a half a dozen times.

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